Politicians allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have intensified their fight for the control of Jubilee party, with each side employing underhand tactics to reign in the other.
The renewed battle in recent weeks includes formation of rival lobby groups, raiding each other’s camps, tussling over the calling of a parliamentary group (PG) meeting, and propaganda and mobilisation along the Kieleweke and Tangatanga fault lines.
Insiders told the Sunday Nation that calls for a PG meeting by the deputy president was a confirmation that the second in command had not only become impatient with his boss but also resigned to the fact that a chance for an internal mechanisms to sort the impasse had run out.
After he made the request, the president’s spokesperson Kanze Dena was dispatched to relay one message; politics was the last thing in the president’s diary.
The DP is understood, at least according to his handlers, to be confident of almost full control in the bicameral parliament and would easily have his proposals sail through.
It is a moment they can’t wait for and some of the DP’s allies say that since the infighting has almost gone past the Rubicon, they would openly take on their party leader and demand changes in the party structures. This includes replacing officials like secretary-general Raphael Tuju perceived to be opposed to Dr Ruto’s 2022 bid.
There are also indications that controversial vice-chairman David Murathe is still listed as a party official despite publicly announcing his resignation after telling off Dr Ruto.
But backed by periodical situational reports by the National Intelligence Service, the President’s side has been reluctant to call for such a meeting.
While the Tangatanga team allied to Dr Ruto boast of having the numbers in parliament, the president’s camp control State power and has key party officials on its side.
And with the term of the current office bearers set to end next March, the DP’s side sees this as an opportunity to install his loyalists who will help hoist his presidential ambitions in 2022. But just in case “Jubilee A” as Mr Kenyatta side is sometimes referred to in the corridors of power, has its way, an alternative political party for Dr Ruto is a strategy his close allies have not ruled out. With suspicion that the high number of new political outfits seeking registration is being driven by senior politicians, one of them — the Jubilee Republican Party — had stirred curiosity.
“It’s our hope to meet and correct ourselves, where one section of the divide has wronged the other," Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, DP’s lieutenant recently said.
Mr Kenyatta may not have spoken in public about the divisions rocking his party except when urging the elected leaders to shun politics and focus on development but his political handlers say he is firmly in-charge contrary to what many may assume.
The battle which is playing out in the open has seen groupings like Embrace, Inua allied to the president and his deputy respectively.
The latest is the incarceration of State House digital Director Denis Itumbi who now works for the DP over claims he authored a letter alleging a plot to kill Mr Ruto. The case has further polarised the party.
Amid the cracks, the opposing camps this week continued to accuse each other of employing dirty tactics to achieve their political goals.
The split comes amid heightened political temperatures occasioned by claims of a plot to assassinate Dr Ruto and allegations of a fake letter that has now turned the spotlight on the Deputy President’s office.
The initial complaint was that government officials from the Mount Kenya region — including Cabinet secretaries Peter Munya, Joe Mucheru, James Macharia and Sicily Kariuki and Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho — held a meeting at La Mada hotel on Thika Road where such a plan was discussed.
The clamour for a referendum to amend the constitution and create an all-inclusive government has also heightened the political heat and escalated the split within the ruling coalition.
The formation of the Team Embrace Kenya, comprising women politicians supporting the handshake between President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga and a rival group known as “Inua Mama” which is allied to Mr Ruto have taken the divisions within Jubilee party to new heights.
“I don’t know of any PG, nobody is talking of a PG,” said Mr Murkomen, barely days after the Ruto wing had demanded that President Kenyatta convenes such a meeting to address the widening rift.
Nowhere is the split widest than President Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya backyard with the political class split between Kieleweke and Tangatanga.
The split has seen Meru senator Kiraitu Murungi and his Nyeri counterpart Ephraim Maina demand for the convening of a Limuru 3 to determine the region’s political destiny ahead of the 2022 election.
Senator Maina confirms that he is in talks with Mr Kiraitu to ensure the region approaches the 2022 polls as a united bloc.
“We must rally behind President Uhuru Kenyatta and remain united. We will not be divided by the national politics,” he said.
On Friday, Mt Kenya leaders reiterated the resolution made in a meeting Limuru in March 2012 that President Kenyatta is the community’s leader, according to Gikuyu Embu and Meru Association chairman Bishop Lawi Imathiu. He also supported the “handshake” between President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu and former Mukurweini MP Kabando wa Kabando echoed Bishop Imathiu’s position.
“Going forward, we will reconvene to restate this resolution. Anyone sabotaging Uhuru's reconciliation and reunification agenda is definitely on self-ruin. Anyone mocking Uhuru's war on graft is destined for political waste,” Mr Kabando told the Nation.
Though majority of the 80 elected leaders (53 MPs, nine senators, nine women reps and nine governors) in the region are aligned to Dr Ruto, the simmering rebellion in Jubilee party, the Handshake and emergence of presidential candidates from the region have somewhat wreaked Dr Ruto’s support.
Among the regional political bigwigs said to be harbouring presidential ambitions in 2022 is MP Moses Kuria, Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wairia and Cabinet Secretaries Mwangi Kiunjuri and Peter Munya.
Allies of Mr Wairia and Mr Kuria have already formed political parties- Civic Renewal Party and Transformational National Alliance Party (TNAP) - which the two controversial politicians will ostensibly use, respectively, in fight for a share of the mountain voting bloc.
Mr Wairia, who is serving his final term in office held, last month held a closed-door meeting with Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka at Blue Post Hotel in Thika, a move that left tongues wagging.
Some of the outspoken leaders in the region such as Kieni MP Kanini Kega, who initially supported Mr Ruto’s candidature, have since taken a neutral position in national politics.
Others have joined at least five amorphous political groups which are either coalescing Mr Ruto or Kenyatta-Odinga unity.
As the rifts widen, the two main groupings, have now embarked on marking their territories while accusing each other of employing dirty tricks for political gain.
On May 12, for example, when a team of Kieleweke leaders attended the thanksgiving ceremony in Naivasha’s African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) without informing the area MP Jane Kihara, Mr Ruto’s ally, leading to the two teams clashing.
Kirinyaga senator Charles Kibiru and Murang’a counterpart Irungu Kang’ata who were both viewed as pro-Ruto have also switched camp to support calls for a referendum to form an all-inclusive government.
“There should be a referendum so that we can have an inclusive government not two tribes winning- an election- and taking all positions,” said Senator Kibiru.
By Justus Wanga, Gachane Ndung’u, Kennedy Kimanthi, Grace Gitau and Joseph Wangui